California Pummeled With 162 MPH Wind Gust

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An exceptionally strong wind gust clocked in at 162 miles per hour at Ward Mountain in California as a deadly atmospheric river pummeled the state with torrential rain, strong winds and heavy snow.

The storm follows a similar system that brought a deluge of rain to California on Thursday. On Sunday, the second atmospheric river unleashed dangerous conditions across the state, prompting several National Weather Service (NWS) weather alerts warning of high winds.

Winds were very strong, with the 162 mph gust in Ward Mountain briefly exceeding the strength of a Category 5 hurricane and nearing the state record of 199 mph, which was set in the same location in 2017.

Atmospheric rivers are defined as a “long, narrow region in the atmosphere—like rivers in the sky—that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than a dozen atmospheric rivers battered the state last year, largely eliminating drought, but creating severe problems such as flooding and mudslides.

A person walks through floodwaters on February 4, 2024 ,in Santa Barbara, California. Winds were so strong that a gust of 162 mph was documented at Ward Mountain.

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Wind reports from Sunday and Monday revealed shocking gusts in several parts of California in addition to Ward Mountain.

“Winds gusted as high as 162 mph at Ward Mountain, California, yesterday—a location that set the 199 mph wind record for the state in 2017. #cawx Nearly 1 million customers lost power from the storm yesterday evening,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell posted on X, formerly Twitter, with a map where the highest wind gusts were documented.

Significant wind also occurred at Palisades Tahoe, with a gust measuring at 148 miles per hour; a 125 mph wind gust at Mammoth Mountain and a 120 mph gust at Upper Bull.

Fox Weather senior meteorologist Greg Diamond also shared some wind speeds, calling them a “doozy.”

On Monday afternoon, one NWS alert warned that “strong winds could cause extensive damage to trees and power lines” as much of California remained under a winter weather alert.

“The major wind event that we saw yesterday is currently winding down as the storm system continues to progress through the state of California,” AccuWeather meteorologist Scott Homan told Newsweek, adding that winds were gusting up to 55 mph in higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains. “That’ll continue to decrease as we head through time.”

Nearly 500,000 people were without power as of Monday afternoon as the storm raged on. The number of those without power neared 1 million overnight on Sunday, according to social media account @rawsalerts.

Power outages were most widespread in Mendocino and Yuba counties. The storm proved fatal when one man in Yuba County was killed while removing a fallen tree from his property, AccuWeather reported.

The storm grew so severe that Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.